Oral Tradition And Origin Myth
This artical describes what oral tradition is, in particular, stroytelling. It discribes the native american origin myth.
Knowledge is gained through our experiences and others’. The human life eventually ends; therefore humans cannot discover everything by themselves. People are taught many lessons through stories passed down from their ancestors. Culture is generally transmitted from generation to generation through stories, myths, and reenactments or rituals and ceremonies. Oral tradition is the spoken relation and preservation, from one generation to the next, of a people's cultural history and ancestry. It was traditionally used to transmit religious beliefs because it conveys cultural tradition.
One of the most common forms of oral tradition is the story. Storytelling is an art passed down from one generation to another. Just as with any form of art, practice is the key. The storyteller must be able to gain the full attention of the listeners; otherwise part of the lesson will be lost. The passage of lessons by word of mouth leaves them vulnerable to different interpretations and vanishing forever. The story can cease to exist if it is forgotten; because there are no backup copies (i.e. modern day disks, books, and notes), the people's memories are the keepers of the scripts.
One way in which Native American groups differ is the way in which they narrate stories. For example, all groups have their own different origin myth, but the general ideas behind the stories are similar. The origin myth tells about the first people, migration, and/or the origin of kin groups. These stories also relay the ideas that the future does not depend on what you believe and hope for in the future, but what is going on in the present.
One of the main purposes of these stories is to reflect upon traditional values of the past in order to make sense of the moral changes of the present. The issues discussed are more to make sense of the personal and social existence of the people. They offer answers to basic questions; like, "I am because-" and "We are because--."
Myths, especially origin myths, commonly seeks to answer these questions:
1. Where people came from
2. Describe the purposes of people and relationship with the Earth
3. Establish relationships with
4. The individual to the universe and spiritual world
5. The nation to the universe and spiritual world.
The origin myth of the earth-diver is widely used to answer these questions. In general the story explains that the solid earth, symbolic of order and haven, emerges from a chaotic and formless universe. In variances of the earth-diver stories, cooperation, service, and self-sacrifice bring order into the old chaotic world. These stories teach people that they must share power and responsibility. If they become selfish and take too much power and responsibility, they risk upsetting the order relations of the universe, which will result in chaos, suffering, disease, misfortune, and worst of all, death. The world is supposed to be in a constant state of cosmic give-and-take. Deviance from this will cause unbalance. Oral tradition is a means through which people transmit cultural knowledge. This knowledge preserves cultural history.